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FOR THE BIRDS
Franz Lidz
May 02, 1988
Frank Robinson, the manager, watched the Royals tee off on his pitchers as Baltimore lost its 18th straight
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May 02, 1988

For The Birds

Frank Robinson, the manager, watched the Royals tee off on his pitchers as Baltimore lost its 18th straight

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With Baltimore outfielder Wade Rowdon up in the fourth and the ponderous DH Larry Sheets on first, Robinson calls for a hit-and-run. Rowdon swings and misses, but Sheets ignores the sign and stays put. On the next pitch, Robinson flashes the sign again. This time Rowdon takes the pitch, and Sheets is caught stealing.

The strain begins to show in the Orioles clubhouse. Surveying the postgame media swarm, Billy Ripken shouts, "Anyone got a no-pest strip?"

GAME 14: BALTIMORE 6, MILWAUKEE 8. "We're going to win one for the Gipper," Robinson tells his players but then reconsiders. "To hell with the Gipper. Let's win one for me." Milwaukee's Jim Gantner, who had been batting .147 with no RBIs, hits the game-winning two-run single in the fifth. Boddicker, a 20-game winner four years ago, sets a club record by losing his ninth straight decision.

A banner in centerfield taunts: 0-162...THAT'S WHY THEY CALL 'EM THE O'S. "That's impossible!" says the Orioles' Hall of Fame third baseman, Brooks Robinson, who's now a Baltimore broadcaster. "We've got to win at least one."

GAME 15: BALTIMORE 1, MILWAUKEE 7. Deejay Rivers is reeling from fatigue, and now another Baltimore radio personality, Stan the Fan, shows up for his own show wearing hair curlers and a red and black muu-muu. "I want to show what a drag losing is," says Stan.

Ah, the magic of radio.

Baltimore has now failed to take a series from an AL East club in 27 tries, losing 99 of its last 128 intradivisional games. In Milwaukee, Scott McGregor, who has won more games in the 1980s than all but three pitchers in the majors, is rocked for six runs in 2â…” innings in his third defeat of the season. He has not won a game since May 16, 1987.

Meanwhile, at the Stadium Lounge back in Baltimore, a fan who has just watched the Birds go down on the big-screen TV says, "If this goes on much longer, everyone will be rooting for the O's to lose. After all, they got every other record, don't they?"

GAME 16: BALTIMORE 1, KANSAS CITY 13. Rivers enlists the Amazing Kreskin to break the spell by having radio listeners join in a "mass telepathic" experiment. They will attempt to project winning thoughts to the Oriole players just before game time in Kansas City. Apparently the fans' brain waves reach the wrong clubhouse. The Royals, who are out to break their own five-game losing streak, get a leadoff single. They follow with another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. It looks like singles night at Royals Stadium. Baltimore starter Mike Morgan leaves without retiring a single batter. Dave Schmidt relieves—and surrenders three more hits. At the end of the inning, K.C. leads 9-0. The O's amass all of three hits. "If you throw out that first inning," says Baltimore outfielder Jeff Stone afterward, "we would've been in that game."

In the visitors' clubhouse, Robinson launches into a 15-minute tirade, screaming, "You're beaten!" Later he says, squeezing the words through clenched teeth, "This was one of the worst games of my life. Tonight we played like losers. It was the first time since I've been here that we were actually looking to lose. Tonight was not a professional effort in any phases of the game. None."

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